"There were 3.5 million job openings at the end of February, the Labor Department said Tuesday, up from three million a year earlier. The job-vacancy rate, which measures job openings as a percentage of total jobs in the U.S., was 2.6%.
In the seven years before the recession, a vacancy rate of 2.6% was associated with an unemployment rate of about 5.7%. Now, the unemployment rate is much higher—it was 8.2% in March, down from 8.3% in February. That may augur a disturbing shift in the labor market that will keep more people out of work, slow the economy and make U.S. companies less profitable.
High job-vacancy rates come about because employers are having a hard time filling jobs. So they are associated with low unemployment rates. When vacancy rates are low, the opposite is true. Plot out unemployment rates against vacancy rates, and you get what is called the Beveridge curve, a downward-sloping line named after the late British economist William Beveridge.
But the Beveridge curve, nearly three years after the economy began to recover, looks different than it did before the recession struck in late 2007. Unemployment rates are much higher versus vacancy rates than they used to be. Shifts like that in the Beveridge curve suggest the labor market has become less efficient at matching workers with jobs, something that can happen when workers don't have the skills that employers need."
The problem could be a mismatch between the skills of the unemployed and the skills employers want (this is an example of structural unemployment). For those workers, they could be unemployed for a long time.